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Posts Tagged ‘mele’

MeLE PCG03 Apo is a Fanless Apollo Lake mini PC with HDMI 2.0 Output

April 10th, 2017 12 comments

Many Apollo Lake mini PCs have come to market, but it’s still pretty hard to find a fanless consumer mini PC based on Intel Apollo Lake processor, and even harder if you also want  HDMI 2.0 output for 4K @ 60 Hz support. MeLE has been working on an upgrade of their PCG03 mini PC that brings all those features. PCG03 Apo fanless mini PC is powered by an Intel Celeron N3350 dual core processor with 4GB RAM, 32GB storage, and features HDMI 2.0 and VGA ports.

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MeLE PCG03 Apo mini PC specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3450 quad core “Apollo Lake” processor @ 1.10 / 2.20 GHz with 12 EU Intel HD Graphics 500 (6W TDP)
  • System Memory – 4GB DDRL3L (soldered)
  • Storage – 32GB eMMC 5.0 flash (soldered), 1x M.2 SSD slot, 1x SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K @ 60 Hz, and VGA
  • Audio – Via HDMI, 3.5mm audio combo jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 ac WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 2.0 port, 1x USB3.0 Type-C port
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington Lock, 75x75mm VESA mount support, BIOS features: PXE boot, Wake-on-LAN, BIOS reset button, auto power-on after power loss
  • Power Supply  – Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 12V / 2A with UL, UK, GS, and SAA plugs
  • Dimensions – 150 x 103 x 37 mm
  • Weight – 500 grams

The mini PC will run Windows 10 Home (64-bit) with English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Polish, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified, Russian and Arabic languages pre-installed. Linux support is not a given on Apollo Lake mini PCs, as I’ve recently found out with Beelink AP42 whose BIOS does not support Linux, despite being advertised with Linux support. Maybe there’s a better chance of Linux support with MeLE, since they’ve sold Ubuntu mini PCs in the past.

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We’ll still have to wait for more details about pricing and availability, but the mini PC will surely be sold on MeLE’s Aliexpress store once it launches.

Via AndroidPC.es

MeLE V9 4K Android TV Box Comes with a 3.5″ SATA Slot, a Cooling Fan

March 30th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve seen several devices based on Realtek RTD1295 processor. They all come with a SATA interface, either via an external connector like Zidoo X9S, a 2.5″ SATA bay like Beelink SEA I, or a 3.5″ SATA bay as found in Eweat R9 Plus. However, all those devices are fanless, and at least one person expressed concerns when using a device with an internal hard drive without active cooling. MeLE V9 fills that gap, as the RTD1295 TV box features a 3.5″ SATA slot and an active fan for cooling both the device and the hard drive.

MeLE V9 specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTD1295 quad core Cortex A53 processor with ARM Mali-T820 MP3 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash + 3.5″ SATA slot + SD/SDXC card slot
  • Video I/O – HDMI 2.0a output up to 4K @ 60 Hz with 10-bit HDR support, AV port, and HDMI 2.0 input for digital signage, surveillance, recording,
  • Audio I/O – HDMI in and out, AV port (stereo audio), 1x S/PDIF output,
  • Video Playback – 10-bit HEVC/H.265 up to 4K @ 60fps, H.264 up to 4K @ 24 fps, VP9 up to 4K @ 60 fps, 3D Blu-ray, 3D MVC  (ISO/MKV) etc…
  • Audio Features – 7.1 channel audio pass-through with support for Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-HS Master Audio
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 1x USB type C port, 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button, front panel LCD display, IR receiver, 40x30mm fan for cooling
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Dimensions – 255 x 165 x 55 mm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg

The box runs Android 6.0, but the company told me it lacked OpenWrt found on some competitor’s models. The device ships with a power supply with UK, EU, US, and AU plug adapter, a remote control, a HDMI cable, and a Quick Start Guide.

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MeLE V9 TV box is now sold for $149.25 on Aliexpress including shipping. Note that the “normal price” is $199, and in the past I’ve seen the company often run short promotion for the device, while keeping the “normal price” most of the days. So if you are quick or patient depending on the price at the time, you should be able to get it for under $150.

Giveaway Week Winners – November 2016

November 9th, 2016 24 comments

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to announce the results the whole world is eagerly waiting for today, and as you’ve probably guessed it, by that I mean CNX Software Giveaway Week 2016 contest… obviously… We had seven winners sharing the prizes shown below from Android TV boxes, to a Linux TV stick, and an Android virtual reality headset.

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2016 has been an interesting year so far, putting statisticians, pundits, pollsters, and generally speaking odds to shame, and random.org apparently decided to join that trends, as while most of the blog’s traffic – and I’d assume entries – come from the western world (North America / Western Europe), random.org mostly selected winners from other countries:

  • VR SKY CX-V3 VR headset – Dainis, Latvia
  • WeTek Core TV box – Homer, Morocco
  • Vana Player Hifi Linux audio player – Fakham, Pakistan
  • MeLE PCG02U Ubuntu TV stick – Ziggy, Singapore
  • Coowell V4 Android tv box with camera – Pavlos, Greece
  • K1 Plus T2 S2 Android STB – Lasent, Hungary
  • Zidoo X9 Android TV box with HDMI input – Upsakas Kontoritarve, Estonia

I’ve just sent the 7 parcels to the above winner this morning.

giveaway-winners-parcelsThank you everybody for playing. Let’s do it again sometimes.

Giveaway Week – Star Cloud PCG02U Ubuntu TV Stick

November 3rd, 2016 268 comments

The fourth device for this giveaway week will be MeLE Star Cloud PCG02U TV stick powered by Intel Atom Z3735F quad core processor, but instead of running Windows 10, the device is sold with Ubuntu 14.04, which I upgraded to Ubuntu 16.04.

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I found out that the device was running pretty well (minus Bluetooth support) in my PCG02U review, and for the price at the time ($70) it was really a good deal. The device has even become the best selling devices on MeLE Aliexpress store, outselling all other Windows devices. However, MeLE ethics are questionable since they used Ian Morrison (Linuxium)’s image in their devices without giving any credits.

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The package will come with all accessories above, minus the “Caution Hot” sticker which must have gone to sticker heaven….

Simply leave a comment below to enter the draw. Other rules are as follows:

  • Only one entry per contest. I will filter out entries with the same IP and/or email address.
  • Contests are open for 48 hours starting at 10am (Bangkok time) every day. Comments will be closed after 48 hours.
  • Winners will be selected with random.org, and announced in the comments section of each giveaway.
  • I’ll contact the winner by email, and I’ll expect an answer within 24 hours, or I’ll pick another winner.
  • Shipping
    • $12 for registered airmail small packet for oversea shipping payable via Paypal within 48 hours once the contest (for a given product) is complete.
    • If Paypal is not available in your country, you can still play, and I’ll cover the cost of sending the parcel by Sea and Land (SAL) if you win.
  • I’ll post all 7 prizes at the same time, around the 10th of November
  • I’ll make sure we have 7 different winners, so if you have already won a device during this giveaway week, I’ll draw another person.

Good luck!

Star Cloud PCG61 Intel Celeron “Braswell” Ubuntu 16.04 / Windows 10 Pro Mini PC Features Up to 8GB RAM

July 28th, 2016 6 comments

MeLE showcased their PCG61U mini PC powered by an Intel Celeron N3150 processor and running Ubuntu last April at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair. The company has now launched Star Cloud PCG61 on Aliexpress where it sells for $149 and up with either Windows or Ubuntu.

Star_Cloud_PCG61Star Cloud PCG61 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Braswell Celeron N3150 quad core processor @ 1.60/2.08 GHz with 12 EU Gen8 Graphics(6W TDP)
  • System Memory – None, 4 or 8GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 0, 64 or 128 GB mSATA SSD (upgradeable up to 256GB), micro SD card up to 512GB
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4 & VGA
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm microphone and earphone jack
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n & 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • Misc – Power button, Kensington security lock, reset BIOS button,  mini PCIe slot (likely already used by wireless module)
  • Power – 12V DC input
  • Dimensions & weight – N/A (Aluminum case with “patented fanless cooling design”)

That’s the first time I see a “Reset BIOS” button, and considering problems people had with Wintel Pro CX-W8, it might be worthwhile feature to have in case you have “bricked” your computer with wrong BIOS settings.

Ubuntu-16.04_Braswell_mini_PCThe fanless mini PC can be bought pre-loaded with Ubuntu 16.04, Windows 10 Pro, or without any operating systems as it is sold in four configurations:

  • Barebone without memory nor storage – $149
  • Ubuntu 16.04 with 4GB RAM, 64 GB SSD – $199
  • Windows 10 Pro with 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD – $299
  • Windows 10 Pro with 8GB RAM, 128 GB SSD – $349

All prices include shipping by registered air mail. It’s pretty clear Windows 10 Pro is properly licensed considering the price difference with the Ubuntu version for the same hardware.HDMI_VGA_Mini_PCVia AndroidPC.es

Star Cloud PCG03U Bay Trail Ubuntu mini PC with 2GB RAM, 64GB Storage Sells for $90

July 8th, 2016 11 comments

Last year, I reviewed MeLE PCG03 mini PC with Windows 8.1. and later upgraded it to Windows 10, but the company has now started to launch Ubuntu based TV sticks and mini PCs, under their new Star Cloud brand, with for example Star Cloud PCG02U TV stick, and now they’ve just launched Star Cloud PCG03U running Ubuntu 14.04 for $89.59 shipped on Aliexpress.

Ubuntu_Bay_Trail_mini_PCStar Cloud PCG03U specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz / 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host ports (The specs mention 1x USB 3.0 port, but it should be impossible since Z3735F does not support USB 3.0)
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The mini PC will ship with a 12V power supply and internal plug adapters, as well as a Quick Start Guide. Compared to the windows version (PCG03), the storage has been upgraded to 64GB (was 32 GB), and Bluetooth has been dropped, probably because of drivers issues… The specs on AliexpressThe latter also explains why it’s running Ubuntu 14.04, and not Ubuntu 16.04, which require a more recent Linux kernel, and has not been found to be that stable on Bay Trail and Cherry Trail platforms. If you want a system that works well with the latest Ubuntu 16.04 version, you may need to wait for their Start Cloud PCG61U Braswell mini PC.

Star_Cloud_PCG03UThey appear to have used the same case and cooling solution, which I found to be of excellent, so the $90 price is pretty good for this machine, and they probable sell it with little margins. For comparison, MeLE PCG03 is now sold for $159.99.

Via AndroidPC.es

Updating Star Cloud PCG02U to Ubuntu 16.04 with WiFi and HDMI Audio Support

May 26th, 2016 21 comments

I completed my review of PCG02U Ubuntu TV stick a few days ago, and I was quite satisfied with the device, but since Ubuntu 16.04 was released last month, I thought it might be fun to upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu. I’m go through the complete steps including building a new kernel for HDMI audio, and the drivers for WiFi, but you should be able to install Ubuntu 16.04 for Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processor with the image made by Linuxium and a USB stick.

Star Cloud PCG02U OS Support and Warranty

Before I go through the instructions, you may want to read the conditions on MeLE’s Aliexpress PCG02U page.

PCG02U_Linux_OS_WarningThey meant Ubuntu 14.04 instead of 14.0.4, but the important part is that if something goes wrong trying alternative OS, you may lose your warranty.

Upgrade Ubuntu 14.04 to Ubuntu 16.04

Upgrading from one LTS version to the next should be easy using the update manager…

… or doing it through the terminal entirely:

However, it did not work for me, as it quickly ended with the message:

I noticed that PCG02U was still stuck on Ubuntu 14.04.3 LTS, despite running dist-upgrade:

After trying several solutions, I eventually changed the Ubuntu mirror, and the steps above completed successfully with Ubuntu 16.04 running.

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At least two little problems though: I lost HDMI audio with only Dummy Output available, and while Ethernet was still working after the update, WiFi support was gone… But if you don’t need either you’re good to go.

Enabling HDMI audio in PCG02U

Luckily we already have the instructions to enable HDMI audio for Bay Trail and Cherry Trail processors, all we need is a Linux 4.5 kernel and patch it. I’ll do everything inside PCG02U, and I have not used a separate build machine, which would likely be faster. Tip: you’ll need gcc 4.9 or greater. I used the instruction here and there.

First let’s build the dependencies required to build the kernel in Ubuntu.

Now let’s get the patches in a working directory

as well as the Linux 4.5.1 kernel patched for Ubuntu and the Intel Atom HDMI audio support:

Now we can configure the build:

This will ask which config files to configure for AMD64, i386, ARM and so on. We only need to edit the first one (AMD64). Once you are in the config menu, use menuconfig search function to locate SUPPORT_HDMI option and enable it. Exit and save.
CONFIG_SUPPORT_HDMI

Before starting the build add something like “+some_string” to the end of the first version number in the debian.master/changelog> file. I added +hdmi_audio string:

You can now start the build with:

However, the build did not complete for me, with the error:

I followed the instructions on askubuntu, and disabled set do_zfs = false in debian.master/rules.d/amd64.mk, and completed the build with the same command line. It took around 2 to 3 to complete the build on PCG02U, and I had a bunch of deb packages…

.. and I installed the headers and image:

Rebooted the system, which booted successfully, and I could confirm HDMI audio was back. Yes!

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But still no WiFi… and space was running now, so I did some cleaning which gave me a few gigabytes to play with:

Building Realtek RTL8723BS WiFi Driver in Ubuntu/Linux

Star Cloud PCG02U uses  a WiFi and Bluetooth module with the common Realtek RTL8723BS chip, but the driver is not currently in mainline, so it needs to be compiled separately. That part is straightforward, and only take 2 minutes or less:

That’s all and now the Wireless network is enabled:

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I had no problems connecting to my wireless router, and the module is automatically loaded at boot time. So now we have the same level of support as in Ubuntu 14.04 with HDMI audio and WiFi.

Realtek RTL8732BS Bluetooth in Linux

However, the hardware also supports Bluetooth, so it would be nice to have this enabled too, and again RTL8723BS Linux Bluetooth driver is available thanks to one independent developer (lwfinger).

In theory, it’s pretty easy:

But this did not work for me, despite Bluetooth apparently being located on /dev/ttyS4:

But the log would show a connection timeout:

Sadly, I haven’t been able to find a solution in a reasonable amount of time, and changing the baudrate from 115200 in the script to 2764800 (as shown in dmesg) does not help.

Of course everything would be so much easier if HDMI audio Cherry Trial and Bay Trial and RTL8723BS drivers would be in mainline linux, as all you would have to do would be to install Mainline linux in Ubuntu, and everything would just work. This does require some work however, but if you are motivated, lwfinger is ready to submit the RTL8723BS WiFi code to mainline if somebody takes care of all the errors and warnings generated by checkpatch.pl.

Star Cloud PCG02U Ubuntu 14.04 TV Stick Review

May 24th, 2016 9 comments

Star Cloud PCG02U is the first Ubuntu product from MeLE. After taking a few pictures of the TV stick and the board, I’ve tested the performance and functionality of the device.

First Boot and Setup

You can either connected the stick directly into an HDMI port, or using the provided female to female adapter via an HDMI cable. I’ve opted to insert the device directly into the AUX port of my Onkyo A/V receiver itself connected to my TV. Since there’s only one USB host port, USB keyboard and mouse are not convenient since it would add a USB hub, so I went with Logitech MK270r wireless mouse & keyboard combo instead. You can either used Ethernet or WiFi for Internet connectivity, and I opted for the latter for most of the review, but WiFi is also working fine.

Star_Cloud_PCG02U_Ubuntu_TV_Stick_AV_ReceiverThe final step is to connect the power supply into the micro USB port, and boot the device which takes around 20 seconds. Power consumption is a low 3.4 watts in idle mode, and 0.4 watts while powered off. The system automatically login to Unity desktop shell with user “pp” without password. But if you do need to perform some administrative tasks as root, pp password is 123456.

PCG02U_User_AccountsSo you’ll probably want to go to “User Accounts” to Unlock the settings, and either add a password to pp, or create a new user.

PCG02U_Time_DateTime is set to New Year by default, so I changed that to match my local, as well as the Clock setting to display the time using a 24-hour clock, instead of the default 12-hour clock.

PCG02U_Software_Update_Server_ConfigThe download server for updates is configured to use servers in China by default. This  will likely be slow in most countries, so you’ll want to select a server for your country, or simply use the “Select Best Server” feature.

Ubuntu_Select_Best_ServerI also disabled “Online search” and removed “Amazon” icon from the dashboard.

Ubuntu_Disable_AmazonI completed the initial setup by installing the latest updates as well as OpenSSH server:

PCG02U System Information

Now that I have a system configured to my taste, let’s check some of the system information from the terminal start with Ubuntu and Linux kernel versions:

It’s not surprising that they went with Linux 3.16 since it was the only option to get HDMI audio until recently. MeLE did use Linuxium image possibly with some modifications.

MeLE also created pp user, but I’m not sure they did other improvements.

I still had 20GB free storage after installing the latest upgrade, with LibreOffice and Firefox pre-installed.

The system reports 1.9GB memory and a 1.9GB swap partition that’s barely used.

You can only see 159 MB free memory, simply because of lot of it is used as buffer/cache, not because Ubuntu is about to run out of memory.

cpuinfo show four cores, but I’m only showing one below.

Finally, I’ve installed hardinfo mostly to confirm the previous findings.

PCG02_hardinfo

Star Cloud PCG02U Benchmarks

Phoronix Benchmark

I’ll first use Phoronix to benchmark the TV stick.

I also installed psensor to monitor the CPU tempetature.

Before running the same benchmarks that was run on several ARM Linux development boards.

You can find the results on openbenchmarking.org, but as the tests were underway, the temperature seemed under control never going above 79 C, and I soon realized that the governor was setup to “Powersave”, so I changed that to “Performance”, and ran the tests again.

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So finally we have the results for both lowpower and performance governors, and the results are not that much different. Let’s see some of the results compared to  ARM boards. Please note that “MeUbuntu 14.04.3” is actually the test for PCG02U in powersave mode.

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First Star Cloud PCG02 is faster than ARM boards in some, but not all of the tests.

PCG02U_John_The_Ripper

John the ripper multi-threaded password cracker still works best on Banana Pi M3 octa-core ARM Cortex A7 board.

PCG02U_Himeno_Benchmark_3.0But Himeno benchmark is way much faster on Intel than ARM. Himeno page mentions that version 1.2.0 “use AVX2 by default if available”, so while the test still used version 1.10, and I did not find x86 optimization in the source code, it’s quite possible the compiler makes use a SIMD instruction on Intel, but not on ARM, or that ARM NEON is not quite as good as SSE2, AVX… instructions on Intel processors.

PCG02_FLAC_Audio_EncodingFLAC audio encoding is also confirming the better performance of the Intel platform here, although the gap to ODROID-XU4 is not as wide as for Himeno benchmark. Audio encoding would also benefit from SIMD instructions so that may explain it.

Network Performance

I tested both Ethernet and WiFi with iperf.

Full duplex transfer with Fast Ethernet shows very good performance:

I repeated the test with WiFi in one direction only, and the connection seems pretty good too:

Storage performance

I install IOZone to benchmark the internal flash.

I used the command line armbian community uses to test random read and write speed initially:

Random read @ 121 MB/s and write at 70MB/s is not too bad, but I can’t explain why they are random I/O are faster than sequential ones, so I repeated the test again with basically the same results.

I did two more runs with a larger file to test sequential read and write speed more accurately.

75MB/s sequential write speed and 125 MB/s sequential read speed are rather typical values for low cost Intel platforms.

Star Cloud PCG02U Usability Testing

In the final part of the review, I’ve test some common apps including:

  • Chrome web browser
    • Multitab browser
    • Adobe flash with Candy Crush Saga game
    • YouTube playing at 1080p
  • Libreoffice with text files, spreadsheet and presentations
  • Kodi 16.1 playing 1080p60 H.264 and 1080p24 H.265 videos
  • SuperTuxKart 3D games

You can watch the user’s experience in the video below.

Basically, I’m very happy with the performance of the device for desktop tasks, as everything worked smoothly. Video playback in YouTube and Kodi 16.1 ws not 100% perfect though, but still watchable, and finally SuperTuxKart ran pretty well at around 25 fps.

Overall, I’ve very satisfied with MeLE PCG02U TV stick, especially considering the $70 price tag, and you’ve got a fully working Ubuntu device suitable for desktop tasks, although multi-tasking should probably be limited due to the 2GB RAM. I’d like to thank MeLE for providing the sample, but we should also thank Linuxium for his work on the Ubuntu for Intel Atom Z3735F devices. You can currently purchase Star Cloud PCG02U for $69.76 including shipping, except for resident of the United Stated, Canada and Mexico, because MeLE has an agreement with another reseller targeting business consumers.